Author Guest Post with R. M. Romero, MG Historical Fantasy Author of The Dollmaker of Kraków, on “Remembrance and Return”

Hi guys! Last Saturday–October 6th–marked the end of the Invasion of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union, who divided and annexed the nation under the German-Soviet Frontier Treaty. The Invasion of Poland also marked the beginning of World War II and the catalyzation of the atrocities conducted by both the Nazis in the Holocaust and the Soviets in the mass deportations. A few weeks ago, I won a copy of The Dollmaker of Krakow in a giveaway hosted by author R. M. Romero, who agreed to do this guest post on the blog! I am very excited to share this post with y’all, and I hope you enjoy it!


About the BookThe Dollmaker of Kraków

In the land of dolls, there is magic.
In the land of humans, there is war.
Everywhere there is pain.
But together there is hope.

Karolina is a living doll whose king and queen have been overthrown. But when a strange wind spirits her away from the Land of the Dolls, she finds herself in Krakow, Poland, in the company of the Dollmaker, a man with an unusual power and a marked past.

The Dollmaker has learned to keep to himself, but Karolina’s courageous and compassionate manner lead him to smile and to even befriend a violin-playing father and his daughter–that is, once the Dollmaker gets over the shock of realizing a doll is speaking to him.

But their newfound happiness is dashed when Nazi soldiers descend upon Poland. Karolina and the Dollmaker quickly realize that their Jewish friends are in grave danger, and they are determined to help save them, no matter what the risks.

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R. M. Romero Guest Post

Remembrance and Return

I am not of Polish descent and I was not born Jewish; I converted as an adult. But when I was eighteen, I traveled to Poland, driven by a desire to learn about the history there. I visited Kraków, a city seeped in legends and KZ Auschwitz-Birkenau, where over a million people–mostly Jews–were murdered.

A part of me never left.

I circled back to Kraków, that beautiful fairy tale city, and the darkness of Auschwitz-Birkenau time and time again. I was haunted by them and by all those who had lost their lives in the Holocaust, but I could only write stories around them. For many years, I never quite dared to return to those places–even in my imagination.

Until I finally did.

One summer night in 2014, I wrote a scene in which a doll comes to life in a magic toyshop. It was a simple scene, yet the characters interested me enough to go on. Before long, I realized where the story took place: Kraków. Shortly after, I realized when the story began: 1939, months before the German invasion and subsequent occupation of Poland. And finally, I realized how the story would end.

Once I knew that, I seriously considered abandoning the book. But ultimately, I pressed on; I felt as if I had to finish it. I had been unable to speak about what I’d seen for Auschwitz for almost a decade, and my dark fairy tale about a doll named Karolina and a toymaker was finally allowing to do just that.

Some thought that choosing to write a book that incorporated fantasy elements into real world history was odd, but if Guillermo del Toro is correct and fairy tales are born in troubled times, it was the only way I could tell the story.

I hoped that through The Dollmaker of Kraków, I could make others see what I had, and that they might come to fully understand the horrors that racism, antisemitism and xenophobia can create. I thought the book could help children see that they will always have the choice to help others…or to give into fear and anger.

Unfortunately, that is a message that has become more and more relevant since 2016. We live in a world where Nazis marched openly in a college town that I lived in for nearly two years, where children are once again being put in cages, where hateful speech is considered acceptable and even admirable by the President of the United States. History is repeating itself in alarming ways…but as I have seen over the last two years, we are fighting back against it.

I don’t know if The Dollmaker of Kraków can be a candle in that darkness and a way to honor those who died in the Holocaust because of vicious hatred. But I continue to hope. And I continue to remember.


About the AuthorR. M. Romero

R. M. Romero is a Jewish Cuban-American author. While afflicted with a terrible cast of wanderlust, she currently lives in Miami Beach with her witchy black cat. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast Program.

When she is not writing, R. M. Romero occupies her time reading fairy tales, taking care of a feral cat colony, and studying Polish.

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

“Even in darkness, it is possible to create light.” — Elie Wiesel

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra Blog Tour: Author Guest Post on “Exploring the Subconscious with What the Woods Keep”

Hi everybody! (I know, my greeting is different today.) I hope you are having an awesome start of the week! What are your favorite genres? My top two are historical fiction and fantasy, so whenever I see a historical fantasy come out, I know that I have to read it. Books that combine multiple genres intrigue me, and one such book is What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra, which infuses thriller, suspense, mystery, fantasy, sci-fi, and speculative fiction all into one story. Today, as part of the blog tour, Katya is here on the blog to talk about “exploring the subconscious” with her debut novel. I hope you enjoy and check out this amazing book! (Thanks so much to Tale Out Loud for hosting this tour! Karlita’s an amazing person, so go check out her blog!)

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About the BookWhat the Woods Keep

Title: What the Woods Keep

Author: Katya de Becerra

Published by: Imprint Macmillan

Publication date: September 18, 2018

Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dark Fantasy, Thriller

Synopsis: What the Woods Keep is the stunning debut of Katya de Becerra, who combines mystery, science fiction, and dark fantasy in a twisty story that will keep you mesmerized right up to the final page.

On her eighteenth birthday, Hayden inherits her childhood home—on the condition that she uncover its dark secrets.

Hayden tried to put the past behind her, and it worked. She’s getting ready for college, living in a Brooklyn apartment, and hanging out with her best friend and roommate Del. But now it’s all catching up with her: her mother’s mysterious disappearance a decade before, her father’s outlandish theories about a lost supernatural race, and Hayden’s own dark dreams of strange symbols and rituals in the Colorado woods where she grew up.

As soon as Hayden arrives at her hometown, her friend Del in tow, it begins: Neighbors whisper secrets about Hayden’s mother; the boy next door is now all grown-up in a very distracting way; and Hayden feels the trees calling to her. And among them, deep in the woods, Hayden will discover something incredible—something that threatens reality itself.

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Pre-order What the Woods Keep today!

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Exploring the Subconscious with What the Woods Keep

What scares you?

Is it that moment when your eyes adjust to darkness and you begin seeing shapes that don’t belong there? Or perhaps it is the sound of rustling dry leaves underfoot that keeps on long after you’ve stopped moving? Or maybe, like me, you break into cold sweat at the very idea of hearing your name spoken when there’s no one in the room but you?

Innocent sounds that take on a new sinister meaning, shapes that materialize in the dark just as the eyes adjust and the viewer regains her equilibrium – all of it plays on our strings of perception in hopes of triggering that disturbing sensation of uncanny. Uncanny is exactly that: what happens to our perception when reality is distorted. It is a type of emotional and cognitive dissonance you might feel when you stumble upon something that used to be familiar but not anymore. It might still look right, but it feels decisively wrong.

The horror genre has been known to play on the idea of uncanny by utilizing all of the above (and more!) as techniques designed to set the reader’s (or the movie goer’s) nerves on fire, to provoke a visceral response.

My debut YA novel, What The Woods Keep, doesn’t shy away from its own tribute to the uncanny phenomenon, though I hope that it offers its own genre-bending take on it and its associated horror genre tropes.

In the novel, the protagonist, science-minded Hayden, at some stage fatefully states: “We are attracted to mysteries. Our perpetual drive to solve the unsolvable, to know the unknown, makes us human. The unknowing bothers us.” And so, true to her words, in one of the novel’s early key scenes designed to signal the uncanniness of what’s yet to come, Hayden ventures into the dark to investigate, possibly to help someone’s in trouble. It is then, for the first time, that she experiences the moment of extreme irrational fear. It is so intense that Hayden’s rational mind wavers for a moment, pushing her to give in to primal fear. In that moment, familiar objects are distorted, Hayden’s sense of smell is assaulted by the raw stench of the upturned earth, her skin ripples in the cold draft… And then there’s the pinnacle of her journey into the dark: what was once familiar morphs into something strange, unsettling, as if possessed by an otherwordly force. It triggers Hayden’s fight-or-flight response and even someone as cool-headed as she finds it hard to resist.

I did scare myself a little while writing that scene. But it also helped me to analyze what I found particularly scary and why. I’m glad I’ve woven my darkest fears into my YA debut.

After all, the act of telling (or hearing) a spooky tale brings about a form of emotional catharsis allowing us to experience fear in a controlled, safe environment and by doing so, hopefully, get over it.


About the AuthorKatya de Becerra

Katya de Becerra was born in Russia, studied in California, lived in Peru, and then stayed in Australia long enough to become a local. She was going to be an Egyptologist when she grew up, but instead she earned a PhD in Anthropology. What the Woods Keep is her first novel.

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Follow the Rest of the Tour Here!

Tour Schedule on Tale out Loud

SEPTEMBER 10 (MONDAY)

Karlita — Tale Out Loud (Review, Q&A)
Kester — LILbooKlovers (Guest Post)

SEPTEMBER 11 (TUESDAY)

Salwa — Voguish Perusal (Review, Favorite Quotes, Guest Post)
Amanda — MetalPhantasmReads (Review)
Laura — Bucks, Books & Beyond (Review, Favorite Quotes)

SEPTEMBER 12 (WEDNESDAY)

Liv — Liv’s Wonderful Escape (Review, Creative)
Sifa — Sifa Elizabeth Reads (Review)

SEPTEMBER 13 (THURSDAY)

Austine — NovelKnight (Review, Q&A)
Imogene — Amidst the Pages (Review, Favorite Quotes)
Mari — Andico Mari (Review)

SEPTEMBER 14 (FRIDAY)

AJ — Diary of an Avid Reader (Review, Novel Aesthetic Board)
Justine — Bookish Wisps (Review, Favorite Quotes)
Nikole — A Court of Coffee and Books (Review, Q&A)

SEPTEMBER 15 (SATURDAY)

Jamie — PrincessofPages (Excerpt)
Preethi — Young Adult Media Consumer (Review)
Crimson — Crimson Talks Books, Mostly (Review)


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Are you excited for What the Woods Keep? Do you YA thrillers?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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Exclusive Interview with Supriya Kelkar, MG Historical Fiction Author of Ahimsa

Hi guys! I have a really special interview for you today, and today’s guest is Supriya Kelkar, author of her MG historical fiction debut Ahimsa. It is an amazing novel, and if you haven’t read it, you are missing out! Check out my review of Ahimsa here, and I hope you enjoy this interview and read this beautiful book!


About the BookAhimsa

In 1942, when Mahatma Gandhi asks Indians to give one family member to the freedom movement, ten-year-old Anjali is devastated to think of her father risking his life for the freedom struggle.

But it turns out he isn’t the one joining. Anjali’s mother is. And with this change comes many more adjustments designed to improve their country and use “ahimsa”—non-violent resistance—to stand up to the British government. First the family must trade in their fine foreign-made clothes for homespun cotton, so Anjali has to give up her prettiest belongings. Then her mother decides to reach out to the Dalit community, the “untouchables” of society. Anjali is forced to get over her past prejudices as her family becomes increasingly involved in the movement.

When Anjali’s mother is jailed, Anjali must step out of her comfort zone to take over her mother’s work, ensuring that her little part of the independence movement is completed.

Inspired by her great-grandmother’s experience working with Gandhi, New Visions Award winner Supriya Kelkar shines a light on the Indian freedom movement in this poignant debut.

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1. Your MG debut novel Ahimsa, which follows Anjali as she and her mother join the nonviolent Indian Freedom Movement, was inspired by your great-grandmother who worked with Gandhi and other political leaders as a Freedom Fighter. Could you share with us a bit about your great-grandmother and how her life of perseverance and activism led to the creation of Ahimsa?

My great-grandmother’s background is very similar to Ma’s in Ahimsa. When Gandhi asked each family to give one member to the nonviolent freedom movement, my great-grandfather was running a business and couldn’t go because they needed the income to survive. So my great-grandmother decided she would join. She fought for women’s rights and for the impoverished communities in her region. She was arrested by the British for leading a protest and remained imprisoned until Gandhi negotiated the Gandhi-Irwin pact, which allowed non-violent political prisoners to be released from jail. After India’s independence, she went on to become a two-term congresswoman.

In 2003, when I learned more about her, I really wanted to write a screenplay about her story, a biopic. But no matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to work. Then I thought it should be a fictional story and tried to tell it from the point of view of a freedom fighter’s daughter. That still wasn’t working. That’s when I decided to give the story a try as a novel. Ahimsa was the first novel I ever wrote and it didn’t get published until fourteen years after the first draft was written!

2. What attracted you to historical fiction as an author and a reader? Why do you believe it is important to shed light on events such as the Indian Freedom Movement to young readers?

It’s so interesting to me how much there is to learn from historical fiction, and how relevant the genre can be. I didn’t even realize the social justice parallels in my book until more than a decade into revisions on it. I think it is important to shed light on events such as the Indian Freedom Movement so young readers can not only learn a little about historical events that are often lightly touched upon in a school curriculum, but also so young readers can learn from them and apply the lessons of the time period to today’s time.

3. How have your personal experiences dealing with racism as you grew up shaped Ahimsa? What do you want readers to take away from your debut novel?

AhimsaA few years ago, a childhood friend on Facebook was talking about how differently some people were treated by the police, based on the color of their skin. And almost everyone who responded from our high school said this wasn’t true. We grew up in a town that was all about being “color blind.” Race was not discussed (unless you were being bullied because of it), and everyone liked to talk about how they didn’t see color and everyone was equal. I was stunned. I finally wrote a long comment on his post to the other people about everything I went through, all the racist incidents that happened, all the racist comments from teachers, peers, kids younger than me, words written in permanent marker on my locker, and a brick thrown through our window. And none of the people I grew up with could believe any of this happened, even though it happened almost daily and in front of their eyes. This realization that I could walk the same halls of high school as other people but my experience could be so totally different, led to the scene where Mohan tells Anjali that although they walk on the same street, their experiences are totally different.

I want readers to understand from Ahimsa that if someone tells them something is hurtful or racist, they should believe it, even if they haven’t experienced it or seen it. I want them to be aware of their own prejudices and their own privileges and see where they can grow.  I also want readers to know that they are powerful and can make a difference in this world with their voice. And most of all, I want them to take away empathy from Ahimsa, and realize how much there is to respect and value in each person, from every background.

4. What were some of the challenges you faced during your research for Ahimsa? How has writing your debut helped you embrace and understand more about your Indian heritage and ancestry?

Anjali’s house is my father’s childhood home in India. But when I was describing things in it, I was describing how I remembered them in the 1980s and 1990s. Although most of it was accurate, since the house was around in the 1940s, there were small details I got wrong. I had only seen kitchen cabinets with a stove on top of them. But back in the 1940s, the cooking was done on the floor in that house. Luckily, my parents read the drafts several times and were able to point out any inaccuracies.

Another mistake was I had used my favorite Gandhi quote “Be the change you wish to see in the world” in the book. But it wasn’t until almost the very last edit, when I was triple checking every little detail, that I realized there is no proof Gandhi ever said that line. I had to remove it and find a quote that was actually documented as being said by Gandhi to replace it with.

Debuting with a story about Indian characters really did help me embrace my background more. For years I had written stories about characters that were not from my cultural background, because those stories were the ones that sold. It meant so much to me that now, a story like this could be published.

5. Which character in Ahimsa do you identify most with, and why?

I relate a lot to Anjali in that I can be stubborn at times and it takes me a while to learn from my mistakes. I also relate to Ma’s optimism and wish I were as brave as she was.

6. As a screenwriter for multiple Hindi films, how has your profession in the film industry impacted you as a writer? Would you like to describe to us some of your experiences working on your productions?

Supriya KelkarI had the great privilege of working with one of the biggest production houses in India, and one that knows the value of a solid screenplay. We would spend years on one script, revising it and having it get torn apart and then revising it again. As an impatient person, I learned a lot about how important it is to keep revising and not become attached to your words. You have to be able to throw out entire scenes and storylines and sometimes characters when you’re revising. I also learned a lot about the importance of plot and the importance of being entertaining while serving the plot thanks to the incredible directors and writers I got to work with.

 

7. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?

I have always been someone who loved to tell a story, and probably embellished my stories quite a bit as a child, so writing was a natural way for me to record those stories when I was younger. I first remember really loving writing in third grade, when our class wrote our own books, which our teacher bound into hardcover books. That’s when I first felt this huge sense of accomplishment for writing a story and the joy of being able to share it. It was also when I first heard some constructive criticism too. I couldn’t figure out how to get the characters out of trouble so right when things were at their worst, I had the main character wake up with a start and realize it was all just a bad dream. A family member told me she loved the story except for the ending. 🙂

8. What are your favorite books, genres, and authors? Which ones have impacted you and your writing style the most?

I don’t really have a favorite genre. As a child, I really enjoyed the Babysitters Club series and scaring myself with the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books. I was also really into this Indian comic book series called Amar Chitra Katha. Since there weren’t any books about Indian or Indian-American characters when I was growing up, I really enjoyed learning Indian history, folk tales and mythology from those comic books. In my late teens and twenties, I loved the Harry Potter books. And currently, I really adore picture books. I love how much can be said in so few words in them and think you’re never too old to read them. I was really floored by DU IZ TAK? by Carson Ellis. It is a book told totally in a made-up bug language and yet the reader is able to understand.

I don’t think any of the books in particular impacted my writing style. But I do think I learned about story and plot and character arcs from each and every one of them.

9. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?

When I’m not writing, I have my hands full with my three young kids. Writing is my only job outside of being a mother. I come from a screenwriting background, having studied it in college and then later going on to become a Bollywood screenwriter. I enjoy that I can make my own hours as an author, versus being a screenwriter. I actually write late at night after the kids have slept. It leads to groggy mornings and strange dreams but it’s worth it!

10. Are you a plotter or a pantser? Did you ever surprise yourself as you drafted and revised your book?

I am 100% a plotter thanks to my screenwriting background. I start with general story beats. Then I expand them into bullet points. And then I write paragraphs below each bullet point about the moments I want to have happen in each chapter. I do surprise myself as I draft each chapter when the writing leads to a new idea that has repercussions later in the book though. Those are fun moments that I always look forward to when writing.

11. Your upcoming children’s picture book The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh is set to release in 2019! What is it like making this transition from a Middle Grade novel to a picture book? What can we expect in your latest story?

Yes! I am so excited for it! I always wanted to be a picture book author and I still can’t believe it is actually happening next year. I learned the hard way that it isn’t easy to write a picture book, even though the word count is the equivalent of a page or two in a novel. The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh is about an Indian-American boy who expresses himself through colors. When he moves to a new town across the country, he uses his colors to navigate the various emotions he feels, from nervous, to shy, to finally feeling at home again. Alea Marley did the illustrations and they are stunning and adorable and I can’t wait to be able to share the book with everyone next year!

12. Before you go, would you like to share any advice you have to any aspiring authors or writers?

I would say to keep learning, keep revising, and never give up. Ahimsa took 14 years to be published, and the first draft was awful. It can be hard to not get attached to your words and be receptive to constructive criticism, but once you’re able to delete stuff with abandon and really take in constructive criticism, you might be pleasantly surprised with the results. I know I was.

Thanks so much, Supriya, for joining us today! It was so great to get to know more about you and your wonderful debut novel!


About the AuthorSupriya Kelkar

Born and raised in the Midwest, Supriya learned Hindi as a child by watching three Hindi movies a week. Winner of the 2015 New Visions Award for her middle grade novel AHIMSA, (October 2, 2017), Supriya is a screenwriter who has worked on the writing teams for several Hindi films, including Lage Raho Munnabhai and Eklavya: The Royal Guard, India’s entry into the 2007 Academy Awards. She was an associate producer on the Hollywood feature, Broken Horses. Supriya’s books include AHIMSA, THE MANY COLORS OF HARPREET SINGH (Sterling, 2019), and THE SANDALWOOD PYRE (Tu Books, 2020). Supriya is represented by Kathleen Rushall at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read Ahimsa? Do you like MG historical fiction?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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Exclusive Guest Post with Mon D. Rea, Author of Elemental Ninjas, on “Over-genre-lized! (or Why I Genre Hop)”

Hi guys! Last week, I was in Singapore and I had an amazing time! These next few weeks, I’m going to be really busy since my family and I are going to do a bunch of traveling, so I’ll be less online that usual. But I have a few posts for you, and I hope you enjoy them! (I am also desperately trying to catch up on 8 sets of interview/discussion questions and 6 reviews, but I’ll get them done!)


About Elemental NinjasElemental Ninjas

Fight for Love. Fight for Destiny.

Born into warring clans, wind ninja Sakura and fire ninja Temujin walk paths that couldn’t be farther apart. But their separate worlds are thrown into chaos by the theft of Belshazzar’s Scroll, an ancient relic that grants its possessor the divine right to rule over all the clans. To bring back peace to their lands, they must learn to fight together against a new breed of mystical half-human, half-demon warriors.

As though proof that a blade of love can grow even in the harshest places, Temujin can’t help falling for Sakura. A ninja from the ice clan, Sasha, becomes his rival and seems to be a more suitable match for the beautiful wind ninja. Now, Sakura, Temujin, and Sasha stand in the heart of a conflict that shall decide the future of all the ninja clans.

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Over-genre-lized! (or Why I Genre Hop)

We can’t put books in boxes.

Well, actually, we can. But I mean, we can’t put a book into a pigeonhole. You know, the same way we can’t put people into a pigeonhole.

Take Star Wars for example. (I know it’s mainly a film series but bear with me.) There’s an argument for Star Wars actually being fantasy instead of sci-fi because it revolves around a hero’s quest. And George Lucas drew inspiration from Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s samurai films. Just compare an image of Darth Vader’s helmet with the kabuto of samurai Date Masamune and you’ll see the resemblance:

Samurai

The samurais were medieval warriors in ancient Japan. They wielded single-edged curved swords called katanas. Does that make Star Wars part of the Sword and Sorcery subgenre of fantasy, the Force being a type of magic?

As the author of a series of ninja books, I’m tempted to say yes. But then there are all those gigantic space ships and you can basically turn the argument over on its head with a quote from Arthur C. Clarke:  “Magic’s just science that we don’t understand yet” and – boom! You’re completely flummoxed.

Authors face the same tough choice every time they publish a book. The whole process of creating something out of nothing and putting it into graceful words, bringing it into light, is nothing short of miraculous. But then the doctor – whether it’s Dr. Amazon, Dr. Wattpad or Dr. Publishing House – is going to announce: “It’s a fantasy!” or “It’s a sci-fi!” and your baby goes on to be lumped in a red ocean of other books where creativity and individuality go to die.

Now don’t get me wrong. Genre categorizations and BISAC codes are necessary. They’re like standardized exams in school. They’re not a perfect system but they’re the best we have. But when you’re the gazillionth Paranormal Romance between a human and a vampire or the umpteenth Post-Apocalyptic Dystopian YA Sci-fi, you start to wonder that maybe popular doesn’t really mean good.Soul City

I’ll give you a hint. The Post-Apocalyptic Dystopian YA Sci-fi category mentioned above, which includes heavyweights like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, didn’t use to be a category. But because of authors following their hearts and not getting bogged down by genres and labels, they created a niche all of their own.

At first, I thought my book (Soul City) was either Paranormal Romance or Urban Fantasy.

There was definitely something mushy going on between a supernatural character and a mortal. The thing was, he wasn’t a vampire; he was a reaper. Was he a shifter? Yeah, technically he had that power, but he’s more angelic than underworldly, you know.

Zombie ArcAnd then, upon closer look, I realized Soul City was too dark for the YA crowd that gravitate towards those genres. In fact, some parts were almost full-blown Stephen King Horror.

My second book was even trickier to classify.

The main character was a zombie but he wasn’t the grotesque and violent type always seen in Post-Apocalyptic fiction. Worse, he was a time-travelling zombie a la Dr. Who and he decided to time-jump to the Middle Ages. So there are all these themes just swirling there like animal parts in a witch’s cauldron. There’s Sci-fi, Humor, Fantasy, Adventure, Epic, a zombie, swords, magic etc. You get the idea.

My fifth book, the one after Elemental Ninjas, is Dreamscape Beta.Dreamscape Beta.jpg

It’s my foray into this mint-fresh genre called LitRPG. It’s Literature + Role Playing Games, if you still haven’t heard about it. My first impression of it is that majority of the readers are hard-core gamers who look for the same jargon, mechanics and gameplay they find in a Twitch stream. But Dreamscape Beta, as some non-gamers might infer from the title, has elements of lucid dreaming. So, again, my book fell right off the edge of certain readers’ expectations. And if there’s one thing you don’t want to do as a writer, it’s reaching the wrong readers and not meeting their expectations.

So, what do authors do in the face of total hybrid genre-hilation?

We genre-hop. Genre-hopping is, in my opinion, something natural and unavoidable for writers. The only thing that’s keeping us from genre-hopping right away is our complete devotion to one series or world but, given time, we’ll definitely hop.

Writers do what writers do best: We create. We imagine. We step out of the box and defy expectations. We build words to build worlds. We keep our readers in mind while following our hearts, and we let the BISEC codes sort out the mess.

I have a particularly pronounced case of genre-hopping because I write mostly Fantasy and Sci-fi and yet I have one Contemporary Romance novel or, as some people call it, Chick lit under my belt and I’m currently working on another. And did I mention I’m a guy?The Boyfriend App

In my mind, all 7 of my existing titles fall under the broad umbrella of Fantasy; even the Chick lit one, The Boyfriend App.

TLDR: I like to experiment and I’m not afraid of defying people’s expectations about what I can or can’t write. But most of all, I want my works to reach and affect as many readers as possible. Before I can do that, I need to find them and be willing to search for them in whichever cave or under whichever rock of labels and preconceptions they have.


About the AuthorMon D. Rea

Mon D Rea is an indie author who has written 7.5 books in a variety of genres but mostly YA Fantasy. He likes to write about ninjas, zombies and dragons. He’s currently working on a New Adult rom com titled “My Super Spy Girlfriend.” You can visit him on his website to get some free stuff: www.phenomenalpen.com

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read Elemental Ninjas? What are your thoughts on genre jumping?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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Exclusive Guest Post with Monica Tesler on “Building Fantastical Worlds in Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction” & COVER REVEAL

Hi guys! A few months ago, I went to the Southeastern Young Adult Festival (or SE-YA for short) and I met some amazing Middle Grade authors there! I had the lovely opportunity to chat with Monica Tesler, author of the Bounders series, which looks very epic! I currently have a copy at home waiting to be read, and I can’t wait! Today, Monica and I are celebrating the COVER REVEAL of the FOURTH book in her series, The Heroes Return, with a special guest post. I hope you enjoy!


About Earth Force Rising (Bounders #1)Earth Force Rising

Bounders have always known they were different, but they never suspected they were the key to saving Earth.

Jasper Adams is excited to join the Earth Force military agency as part of its first class of Bounders, a team of kids training to be elite astronauts. He can’t wait to connect with others like him and learn to pilot spaceships that can travel across the galaxy in an instant.

But when Jasper arrives at the space station, nothing is as it seems. Security is sky-high, and Jasper and his new friends soon realize that Earth Force has been keeping secrets—one of the biggest being a powerful, highly-classified technology that allows the Bounders to teleport through space without a ship. Only Bounders can use this tech, which leads Jasper to a sinister truth—humanity is facing a threat greater than any they’ve ever known, and Bounders are the ones standing between their planet and destruction.

Will Jasper and his friends rebel against Earth Force for hiding the truth or fulfill their duty and fight for their planet? The fate of Earth may rest on their choice.

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Monica Tesler Guest Post.png

Building Fantastical Worlds in Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction

I recently had the privilege of being on the faculty for the New England Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (NESCBWI) Annual Spring Conference. I love this conference. I’ve gone every year since 2012 when I was a new writer with no agent and definitely no publishing deal. This year, in addition to teaching a session on the business side of publishing, I taught a class on writing commercial series in middle grade and young adult literature.

As I was preparing my materials for the class and engaging with my enthusiastic students, I was reminded how much I love writing science and speculative fiction and fantasy for middle grade and young adult readers. And one of the very best parts is creating the fictional worlds in which my characters live, dream, interact, and often get into huge heaps of trouble.

Why do I love building these worlds?

Earth Force RisingThe first and easiest answer is that it’s fun. I love escapist fiction, both as a reader and a writer, and there’s nothing better than creating my own fictional worlds in which to escape. In the Bounders series, for example, there are several dystopian, not-so-great aspects of the fictional, future world, but those are balanced out by a lot of cool stuff. Suction chutes to travel between buildings at the space station? Check. Jet packs to fly? Check. Super cool alien technology that lets you bound through space without a ship? Check. I had the best time coming up with all that stuff. If you’re writing middle grade or young adult sci-fi and fantasy, I think the cool and fun factors are a must, even if your worlds have a dark underbelly. Readers want to imagine themselves in the worlds you create, so it can’t be all doom and gloom.

Continue reading “Exclusive Guest Post with Monica Tesler on “Building Fantastical Worlds in Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction” & COVER REVEAL”

Exclusive Guest Post with B. W. Morris, Author of Six Pack: Emergence, on “The Journey to The Six Pack Series”

Hi guys! I hope your summer is going off to a great start! Today I have for you a special guest post by B. W. Morris, author of The Six Pack Series, which includes both Emergence and Gyration. What is really cool about this guest post is that its four mini-posts in one! I hope you enjoy!


About Six Pack: EmergenceSix Pack Emergence

Just weeks before Tyler Ward is to graduate from secondary school, he learns the truth about Novusordo and how a drink controls the population. After sharing this information with his five friends, they visit a professor’s house, take another drink and gain strange powers. It leads to them learning more about how the government controls people and the discovery of a movement against the government. Calling themselves the Six Pack, Tyler and his friends must learn how their powers can change society. But they first must learn to trust this movement… and even each other.

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About Six Pack: GyrationSix Pack Gyration

Months after the Six Pack has fled City 37N104W, Tyler Ward wonders how much longer the Underground Network can wait before making its next move against the Novusordo government. His desire to take action is pushed after five more students disappear from Monroe Secondary School. And when he learns Professor Roger Woods is in trouble, Tyler is convinced the Six Pack must take matters into its own hands, even if it means defying the Network. But actions have consequences, and those that Tyler and his friends take will impact everyone they encounter – including themselves.

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B. W. Morris Guest Post

The Journey to The Six Pack Series

How did I come up with the idea for my new series, featuring teenage superheroes in a dystopian world? How did I manage to combine the two elements? And what in the world do two kinds of drinks have to do with events?

The journey to The Six Pack Series was long and interesting. At times I had to think about how the concept would play out and how everything would come together? It was about a four-year process from the time I had my first idea, to the completion of the final draft. A lot of elements came together and a lot of challenges had to be overcome.

Let me tell you about some of them.

Finding Inspiration in Comic Books

I was a fan of superheroes growing up, but my fandom came more from movies and TV shows. It wasn’t until I got older that I explored comic books and graphic novels. Along the way, I found inspiration from the animated TV series, Young Justice, and picked up some of the companion comics.

That TV series and comics gave me the idea for my own team-up of teenaged superheroes. What I really wanted to explore, though, was the teenagers beyond what it was like to be a superhero and having to face obstacles and challenges from a human perspective. That’s what made Young Justice special – you didn’t just follow the characters on missions, but on dealing with issues outside of the superhero life.

The idea of a drink giving them superpowers came to mind early in the process. All I needed was a setting. And that leads me to…

Drawing Up a Dystopia

Six Pack EmergenceAfter I read Suzanne Collins’ book The Hunger Games, I was intrigued by the world building and how she built tension and wrote so that you kept turning pages. That’s when I got the idea – what if these teenaged superheroes were going up against a controlling government?

And with the idea of a drink giving them powers before me, I wondered what would happen if the government had kept the people addicted to a drink that affected their brans so they couldn’t think for themselves. It provided the counterpoint to a drink that enhanced the brain – only the intent was to enhance the brain to greater influence other people. That it turned out to be a drink that enhanced the brain so that one’s greatest ability became more powerful was, in the story’s terms, not the plan.

But it allowed the superheroes to go up against somebody that wasn’t going to be that easy to take down, even if the opposition didn’t have superpowers. I’ve always found the most interesting adversaries for superheroes to be those who don’t have superpowers – and considering this government controls most of the population, the odds are stacked against our heroes.

The dystopian premise of the government controlling what people think poses what I think could be the greatest threat to a society – sure, it might sound nice on the surface if all people thought the same on every subject. But it comes at the cost of people being individuals, the chance to explore interests, discuss new ideas and debate what is the best route to take.

Turning Regular Teens Into Superheroes

Six Pack GyrationWhat presents a challenge for the Six Pack is not just how the members learn to control their powers – though I’ll admit it was fun writing about how they learned to do that. The Six Pack must also figure out who they can trust – they may know the government isn’t on their side, but will they be able to work with those people who want to bring change?

Just as importantly, can they learn to work with each other? Though the six are friends, they still have to learn what it means to work together to solve a problem. Tyler must learn what it means to be a leader, Jessica must learn not to harbor jealousy, Brad must learn to trust adults, Linda must learn not to be reckless, David must realize he needs to take a bigger role, and Stacy learns why it’s important to keep perspective.

So becoming a superhero is more than about the powers – it’s about what you do with them and how you learn to grow as a person.

Writing in Six Points of View

When I wrote my first draft, I used omniscient point of view, but learned early on that wasn’t going to work for a debut novel. But I believed it was important to get the viewpoint of each member of the Six Pack into the narrative, which meant switching to third-person limited.

The trick I had to figure out was how to transition from one scene to the next so that it would be easy for the reader to follow along with whose viewpoint was up. I’ll admit it was hard to get all six characters to the point in which people could understand what they were thinking and how they were reacting to events. You have to be good at writing characters to make sure each sounds as unique as possible.

I believed it was necessary, though, so people could get the best possible examination of what the world was like and how each member of the Six Pack saw his or her place in it. The majority is in Tyler’s viewpoint, but others get their chance to convey their viewpoints as needed.

For some, they may prefer a first-person POV or third-person POV limited to one character. But having read so many comic books and watched so many TV shows and movies based on superheroes, I find the best way to tell the tale is through multiple viewpoints. And when you are talking about a superhero team-up, you miss something with telling the story from just one character’s POV.

I want to thank Kester for allowing me to guest on his blog and appreciate all he is doing for authors. Please do check out The Six Pack Series and drop by my website to learn more!


About the AuthorB. W. Morris

B.W. Morris is a longtime writer for small-town newspapers who put his inner comic book geek to work through writing novels. Born in Texas but grew up in Colorado, he has lived in New Mexico, Oklahoma and currently resides in Kingman, Kan. Greg Weisman, Suzanne Collins, Stan Lee, George Orwell and Conor Friedersdorf all influenced his writing. Morris is a fan of the Young Justice animated series, the Arrowverse shows on the CW Network, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Star Wars films and more graphic novels than he can keep track. You can learn more about his love for science fiction at his website at bwmorrisauthor.com.

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read The Six Pack Series? What are your thoughts?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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Exclusive Guest Post with Wendy McLeod MacKnight, Author of The Frame-Up, on “The World Behind the Frame”

Hi guys! Today I am at the Tennessee American Legion Boys’ State, where I will be marching and learning more about the inner workings about the government for the entire week. It is an honor to be representing my community this year! Today, I have a special guest post by Wendy McLeod MacKnight, the author of It’s a Mystery, Pig Faceand the upcoming release The Frame-Up, which looks so fascinating! Can you imagine traveling to the worlds inside paintings?


About the BookThe Frame-Up

Don’t let anyone know the paintings are alive. Thirteen-year-old Mona Dunn has adhered to that rule for almost one hundred years, ever since her portrait was hung on the walls of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. So when the gallery director’s son, Sargent Singer discovers the truth, she’s sure she’d just exposed the gallery’s biggest secret. But Sargent, an aspiring artist himself, just wants to know more about the vast and intriguing world beyond the frames. With devious plots, shady characters, and grand art heists, this inventive mystery adventure celebrates art and artists.

Featuring sixteen pages of full glossy pictures of the masterpieces who are characters in the book, this book is a must-read and a useful tool for teachers and parents who want to introduce children to art and artists in a fun, accessible way.

The Frame-Up will release from Greenwillow Books on June 5th, 2018!

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Wendy McLeod MacKnight Guest Post.png

The World Behind the Frame: The Frame-Up

I’ve always loved art.

From an early age, I was inspired by art, although I didn’t show a particular aptitude to make it myself (though I admit to the odd dabbling).

I remember visiting my grandmother as a little girl and seeing the portrait of my mother as a teenager on the wall.

Patsy Rider
Photo Courtesy of Wendy McLeod MacKnight

Yes, my mother is Patsy Ryder, the visitor in the story!

The girl in the painting was flat. I wondered what she was looking at. I wondered if she found the grownups conversations boring, as I sometimes did.

What was it like to be in there, behind the frame?

Creating the world behind the frame before I began to write the book was time-consuming.

The world of the art gallery was easy; I had only to wander around the Beaverbrook Art Gallery take notes.

For the world behind, there had to be rules.

First of all, there was the whole travelling between paintings business. I don’t explicitly spell it out in the book, because I want the reader to imagine how it works for themselves, but in my mind’s eye, there is a magical rabbit’s warren of hallways connecting the paintings to one another. Usually, the residents take their time going between the paintings, often times not entering another painting as they go, but other times, they simply walk from painting to painting, especially if the painting is a landscape.

And then there is the whole issue of what exactly is IN any particular painting.

Since the artist’s vision is supreme and what brings the painting to life, I decided early on that the only thing that existed in any given painting was entirely dependents upon what the artists was thinking about while he or she painted.

So Helena Rubinstein gets to have a few rooms at the back of her portrait, as well some cookies, because artist Graham Sutherland thought of them at the time he painted her.

Not so fortunate is a sketch of Somerset Maugham’s head. Since Sutherland was so focused on getting Maugham’s features right for the final portrait, he only thought of the head. The Maugham in the sketch will be forever dependent on the kindness of other residents to get him where he wants to be.

Depending on the imagination of the artist, the painting can go on far into the distance. For example, Mona Dunn ends up in the painting MerryMaking, and ends up travelling for miles on a bitterly cold winter day, thanks to Krieghoff’s imagination.  This is mostly true of all the paintings, though sometimes to almost comical lengths. In Dan Vigilio Lake Garda, John Singer Sargent doesn’t stock the café with chocolate gelato because the proprietor ran out of it on the day Singer visited!

Mona’s painting is very bare: a small throw, a stool, and a shadowy room. It is not wonder that she adores visiting paintings like San Vigilio, Lake Garda!

There are other rules in the world outside the frame: a resident should not go into another residents’ painting when they are not there without their permission.


About the AuthorWendy McLeod MacKnight

Wendy grew up in St. Stephen and wrote her first novel at age nine. She worked for the Government of New Brunswick for twenty-five years, ending her career as the Deputy Minister of Education when the siren call of writing became impossible to ignore. Wendy is represented by Lauren Galit of the LKG Agency in New York City. Her debut middle grade novel, It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! was published by Sky Pony Press in 2017. Her second book, The Frame-Up, a fantasy set at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, was sold at auction to Greenwillow Books in a two-book deal and will be published June 5th 2018.

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Are you excited for The Frame-Up? Do you like MG Fantasy?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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Exclusive Guest Post by Bridget Hodder, MG Author of The Rat Prince, on “Why Fairy Tales? A Theory of Magic”

Hi guys! For the next few months, most of the authors I am going to have on the blog are going to Middle Grade authors. Although I am still going to be very active in the YA community, my heart has lodged itself deeper in MG fiction. I have met so many wonderful MG authors since the New Year has started, and readers of all ages should pick up their books. Today, Bridget Hodder is here to answer the question, “Why are fairy tales so popular?” Her answer: magic.


About the BookThe Rat Prince

AN ILA CHILDREN’S CHOICE LIST STARRED SELECTION

So, you think you know the tale of Cinderella? Think again!

The dashing Prince of the Rats–who’s in love with Cinderella–is changed into her coachman on the night of the big ball. Together, they’re about to turn the legend (and the evening) upside down on their way to a most unexpected happy ending!

A sparkling debut full of magic and adventure, from a fresh new voice in fairytale fiction.

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Bridget Hodder Header

Why Fairy Tales? A Theory of Magic

My debut novel, THE RAT PRINCE, is a re-imagining of the tale of Cinderella. When I appear at author festivals, give workshops, or visit schools, readers almost always ask me: Why are fairy tales still so popular?

It’s a great question!

What is the reason why people have loved this particular type of story for hundreds of years? Clearly, stories couldn’t stand the test of centuries unless they appealed to something universal inside us. So maybe the real question is: what’s universal about fairy tales?

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Exclusive Guest Post with Gia Cribbs, YA Debut of The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan: Plotting, Pantsing and the Art of Surprise

Hi guys! Today I am having my first ever guest post on the blog in a long time! Carrie Ann DiRisio and Brooding YA Hero introduced me to the wonderful Gia Cribbs and her main character Sloane Sullivan, and I am super excited to have Gia today to talk about “Plotting, Pantsing, and the Art of Surprise!” I love YA thriller novels and the feeling of being on the edge of your seat while your heart is pounding, so I very looking forward to The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan! I hope you enjoy this amazing guest post!


About the BookThe Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan

No one wants me to tell you about the disappearance of Sloane Sullivan.

Not the lawyers or the cops. Not her friends or family. Not even the boy who loved her more than anyone. And most certainly not the United States Marshals Service. You know, the people who run the witness protection program or, as it’s officially called, the Witness Security Program? Yeah, the WITSEC folks definitely don’t want me talking to you.

But I don’t care. I have to tell someone.

If I don’t, you’ll never know how completely wrong things can go. How a single decision can change everything. How, when it really comes down to it, you can’t trust anyone. Not even yourself. You have to understand, so it won’t happen to you next. Because you never know when the person sitting next to you isn’t who they claim to be…and because there are worse things than disappearing.

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Gia Cribbs InterviewPlotting, Pantsing, and the Art of Surprise

I have a SLOANE bible.

It’s a black Moleskin notebook, one of the largest ones they make, filled to capacity with everything I’ve ever researched or thought of for this book. There’s a page for each main character, with pictures of what they look like and their favorite birthdays and backstories I knew would never actually make it into the book. There’s a list of every identity Sloane’s had while in witness protection, including where she lived, what she looked like, and who she was friends with. Calendars with dates of story events circled, hand-drawn maps of schools and towns, lists of popular 1990s alternative bands because one character is obsessed with them—they’re all in there. And, of course, a very detailed outline. Because if you haven’t guessed it: I’m a planner.

Continue reading “Exclusive Guest Post with Gia Cribbs, YA Debut of The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan: Plotting, Pantsing and the Art of Surprise”

Deanna Cabinian, YA Author of One Night, Chats about Writing from a Guy’s Perspective as a Female Author

Hi guys! Tomorrow is Halloween! Instead of going trick-or-treating or scaring trick-or-treaters, I’m hoping to be curled in bed reading a good book (unless I have a lot of homework tomorrow which I hope not). Today, I have a very special guest post for you! Deanna Cabinian, author of her debut YA contemporary novel One Night, is here to give insight into how a female author can write a story from a guy’s perspective. I hope you enjoy!


About One Night30306706

Breakups are the worst.

Thompson is miserable.

Can he get Caroline back?

With his mind on HER, his life takes an unexpected turn. Elvis gives him a job. He knows nothing about the world of celebrity impersonators, but he does know social media.

And so starts his adventure…where will it take him?

Will he find his true love?

Paper Towns meets The Way Way Back in this contemporary YA novel about first love and friendship set to the beat of Elvis Presley’s music.

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Deanna Cabinian

Writing from a Guy’s Perspective as a Female Author

When I first started writing all the lead characters in my novels were female and they all kind of looked, sounded, and acted like me. They shared my interests (writing, tennis, and pop music), they were around my age, and they lived in the Chicago suburbs. For one reason or other none of those novels was a success—they all had major problems and I think one of them was that I kept making the main characters exactly like me. When I started writing from the viewpoint of the opposite gender, though, that’s when things started to click.

My tips for writing from a male point of view as a female author:

1. Read books written by male authors that have a lead character who is male. Make a note of what the characters talk about—and what they don’t. What do they notice? What do they ignore completely when going about their day? What do they worry about? What vocabulary do they use?

2. Pay attention to how males you interact with talk and what they talk about. I am constantly watching people and making mental notes on the things they say and do. A lot of the time I take actual notes, either on my phone or on paper. For example, I have a document on my phone called “funny stuff my husband says.” I also have documents called “weird stuff heard on the train” and “conversations that could be novels.” I always make sure to have a pen and paper when I leave the house to take notes on, too.

303067063. Get a second opinion in the form of a male beta reader or editor. The editor for my YA novel, One Night, was male and he was great at pointing out flaws in my manuscript. There is a scene in One Night where Thompson, the main character, notices a pretty girl in a dress. In the original draft of the manuscript she is described as wearing a spaghetti-strapped dress. I remember so clearly my editor’s note in tracked changes: a heterosexual male does not know what a spaghetti strap is. You could say thin straps or even better, just say “a dress.” That moment was eye-opening for me. Now when I edit scenes that are written from a guy’s point of view my second thought is, would he even notice that?

4. Be careful not to stereotype. As you write think about the males you know. Do all of them like sports and action movies? Probably not. Remember that everyone is an individual with their own unique interests. Try to reflect that in your writing whenever possible.

Hopefully you find these tips helpful. If you have any pointers of your own I’d love to hear them in the comments.


About the AuthorDeanna

Deanna Cabinian is a marketing director who lives in the Midwest, but dreams of living by the ocean. When she isn’t working or writing she enjoys traveling and spending time with her husband and their Havanese dog, Cuba. She is the author of the contemporary young adult novels One Night and the forthcoming One Love.

Connect with Deanna online:

www.deannacabinian.com

On Twitter: @DeannaCabinian


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Do you love YA contemporary novels? What are your thoughts on Deanna’s tips for writing from a guy’s perspective as a female author?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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